Huskymania

By Ken Best

Tracking Huskymania on and off the field.

Men’s Soccer Prepares for Big East Semifinals

Sophomore Andre Blake ’15 (CLAS) is among the nation’s best goalkeepers. Stephen Slade ’89 SFA) for UConn

One measure of the tough competition for the Huskies men’s soccer team this season is that all four of the teams in the semifinals of the Big East Tournament on Friday play in the Blue Division of the conference.

UConn (15-2-1, Big East 6-2) will play Notre Dame (14-3-1, 5-2) on Friday at 7:30 p.m., following the game between Marquette (16-2-1, 5-2) and Georgetown (16-2-1, 6-2) at 5 p.m. The game will be televised on the CBS Sports Network and broadcast on WHUS (91.7 FM). The winners on Friday meet on Sunday at noon.

The Big East made the announcement late on Tuesday that the tournament site has been moved to PPL Park in Chester, Pa., from Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J., where it had been held the previous two years, since the New York metropolitan area is still recovering from the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Tickets that were previously purchased through Red Bull Arena will be honored at PPL Park. Tickets will also be available for purchase via the PPL Park website.

In a three-game stretch in the middle of the regular season, the Huskies played the three semifinalists. UConn defeated the Irish at Morrone Stadium by a 2-1 score after scoring two first-half goals.  They traveled to Washington, D.C. and beat the Hoyas 2-1, with goalkeeper Andre Blake ’15 (CLAS) making seven saves, before suffering their first loss of the season in Milwaukee, Wisc., after Marquette scored two first half goals and hung on for a 3-2 win.

The Fighting Irish are led by scoring leader Ryan Finley, a senior forward who has 18 goals this season, with 4 assists. The Huskies held Finley in check in September, with the only Notre Dame goal coming by midfielder Dillon Powers.

“They’re really, really good. We’ve got our work cut out for us,” head coach Ray Reid said following Sunday’s quarterfinal win over Villanova.

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The football team (3-6, 0-4) hosts a Pittsburgh (4-5, 1-3) team on Friday night that took No. 4 Notre Dame to three overtimes before losing the game 29-26. The game at Rentschler Field is at 8 p.m. and will on ESPN2 and the IMG Sports Radio Network at 1080 WTIC AM.

“They’re probably the best 4-5 team in the country,” head coach Paul Pasqualoni said during his weekly press conference on Monday. “They’ve brought in the Wisconsin zone running game and are doing a really good job with running the ball. They run the zone play and do a very good job of it. I think it’s very conducive to what they’re doing with the backs they have.”

The Huskies’ total defense remains at the top of the Big East, allowing 290.22 yards per game, and is ninth in the nation.

Senior defensive end Trevardo Williams, who had one sack against South Florida last week, has become the Huskies’ career leader in sacks with 27.5.  Linebacker Yawin Smallwood leads the Big East in tackles for a loss (1.44 per game) and is second in total tackles (10.11 per game).

“Man Up” at Tailgates:  State Comptroller Kevin Lembo, the UConn Center and the Huskies football program will host a Men’s Health Tailgating Challenge at Rentschler Field at FanFest between Gates A and B from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. before the game. Man Up is a statewide men’s health campaign to raise awareness about health disparities between men and women. Friday’s event will feature free health screenings, a Wii Sports competition with prizes and other activities to raise awareness about men’s need to Man Up and take charge of their health.

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No. 4 field hockey team (18-2) will host the first the first round of the 2012 NCAA Division I Field Hockey Championship this weekend at the George J. Sherman Family Sports Complex.

The Huskies will play No. 12 Northeastern (14-6) on Saturday at 11:30 a.m, with the victor squaring-off against the winner of the 2 p.m. game between No. 13 Lafayette (17-2) and No. 6 Maryland (16-5) on Sunday at 2 p.m. with a berth in the NCAA National Semifinal on the line. Only 16 teams are in the tournament.

UConn is 20-14 all-time against Northeastern but is just 1-4 against NU in NCAA Tournament play. The Huskies have won six-straight against Northeastern since falling to NU in the first round of the 2004 NCAA Tournament.

UConn is appearing in its 24th NCAA Tournament and owns an all-time mark of 28-21 in NCAA postseason action. Connecticut is 16-7 all-time in NCAA Tournament first round games, including a 2-1 victory over Princeton last season.

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With its win over South Florida last weekend, the volleyball team has clinched a spot in the Big East Tournament next month in Milwaukee.

Returning to the postseason for the first time since 2009 was a primary goal for the team, which will be one of the eight teams to play Nov. 16-18 at Marquette.

“We have continued to improve week to week throughout the season and not only have we clinched a spot in the Big East Championship tournament, we are battling for fourth place,” says head coach Holly Strauss-O’Brien. “I think it speaks volumes of the work ethic, fight, belief, and perseverance of such a young squad.”

The team is in Washington, D.C. tonight to play Georgetown before closing out the regular season on Friday against South Florida in Gampel Pavilion at 7 p.m. on Senior Night.

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The Division of Athletics announced that men’s ice hockey head coach Bruce Marshall ’85 (ED) will take a personal medical leave of absence effective immediately.  Second year assistant coach David Berard will assume Marshall’s responsibilities during his absence.

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SNY will premiere its “Huskies All-Access” program Thursday following its UConn Women’s Basketball Preview Show, which  airs at 8 p.m.  “All-Access” takes a behind-the-scenes look at the Huskies during the intense first week of practice. SNY’s cameras follow the team and coaches on and off the court, offering fans an insider’s view of the nation’ top women’s basketball program.